A TECHNIQUE DRIVEN Blog dedicated to mastery of surface design techniques. First we dye, overdye, paint, stitch, resist, tie, fold, silk screen, stamp, thermofax, batik, bejewel, stretch, shrink, sprinkle, Smooch, fuse, slice, dice, AND then we set it on fire using a variety of heat tools.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Straight Stitched Shibori with Colorhue Dyes

Hi. I am Marsha Leith and I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I have a blog on wordpress named Coolquilting where I post some quilting/textile stuff, some adventures with my dog and recently, a lot of photography. In my previous life(before retirement) I worked as a lab technician in assorted obstetrical/cancer research/avian flu research labs so playing around with pipettes, dyes and fiddling with procedures is right up my alley...

My first exposure to shibori was 3 years ago in an online class with Glennis Dolce(aka Shibori Girl). It was love at first attempt!!

Most of my experience with shibori has been with Colorhue Dyes on assorted silks(raw silk noil, habotai, organza and gauze). There is some controversy about these dyes, and in fact one website suggests they aren't really dyes, but are in fact fabric paints! However, they are easy to use and work very well for shibori. Most of my posts will use these dyes on silks as well as rayon/linen. I will also have a few examples with Procion MX dyes on cotton and indigo(from a pre-reduced indigo kit) on cotton in later posts. Note that the Colorhue Dyes instructions say that the dyes do NOT work with cotton.

This is my basic set-up for using these dyes:

Nothing very special: gloves, disposable plastic pipettes for adding drops of dye to water(I use 8 oz disposable plastic drink glasses), a "large" bucket for rinsing, fabric, thread(I use Coats Extra Strong Upholstery nylon thread), seam ripper and scissors. At the beginning I used air-erasable pens for marking but later I switched to Frixion pens. These Frixion pens are great for marking stitching lines, and are easily removed by ironing before the stitches are pulled up and tightened. I also have a metal hemostat to grip the fabric for dipping/swooshing into the dye(though metal is not recommended!)...plastic tweezers would work fine too. And paper towels for clean-up...

To use the dyes for small swatches of fabric(6 inches across), drops of dye are added, varying from a few drops into 4 oz of water, or up to 25% percent dye in water. With silk fabrics, the fabric only has to remain in the dye solution for a few minutes(other fabric types may require longer immersion times). A quick rinse in water is then done and stitches are carefully removed using a seam ripper.

My first piece for straight stitching was on silk habotai. This fabric is very thin and slippery and my first attempts were not that successful. I won't show my paper designs for these since they are pretty obvious!

Lines stitched with a simple running stitch. I use double thread since it makes it easy to tie off the ends tightly...notice the wonky stitching due to the slipperiness of the habotai fabric:

I pull up to tighten the threads but don't knot the ends yet:

I then completely wet the fabric in water, tighten the threads some more and then securely tie off the ends. This extra tightening step really helps form good resists:

A view of the "dye bath"( 15 drops dye to 4 oz water):

And after dyeing and removal of stitches:

Okay...but nothing exciting! The shibori resist is quite clear though.

My second piece, also on habotai, was with many straight lines(approx 3/8 inch apart), in an attempt to create the traditional Shibori pattern of "mokume" or wood grain.

Nice resist due to the stitches, but there is not enough resist between the rows...probably because the fabric is so thin. So I switched to raw silk(noil) which is much thicker. I also decided to make the rows slightly closer together(approx 1/4 inch).

In addition, with this third piece, I tried to get fancy, by using a circular design, but still just using rows of straight stitching for the shibori. Notice the nubby texture of the raw silk:
Ready for the dye bath after tightening:

Finished piece:
Much better "mokume" wood grain pattern- amazing that just a few rows of straight stitching can give such an intricate design. Note that the raw silk dyes a lot paler than does the habotai, and more unevenly(the "nubs" generally dye darker).

For my 4th piece, I was intrigued by one of the designs that Nienke uses(see Sunday's post tomorrow), and made a smaller version, using habotai. It is a grid with 3 vertical and 3 horizontal lines that intersect:

Stitches tightened, tied off and ready to go:

I wanted to see how intense the colour could get, so I greatly increased the ratio of dye to water for this sample(approximately 25% dye in 2 oz water). It almost glows it is so bright:

Interesting...extra resist was created in the center squares due to folding/scrunching of the fabric...I was not particular in how the fabric was arranged as I tightened the stitches...maybe if I had kept the fabric organized I could have minimized this..but I like the effect!

My last pieces(#5 and #6) were done with a rayon/linen blend and a very loose weave. I just got the fabric 3 days ago...so I haven't been able to "perfect" the dyeing, but this is what I have got so far.

First attempt(#5)...complete disaster. The weave is so loose that the knots got pulled into the fabric and the dye leaked in along the loosened stitching:

You can probably just see 3 groups of 3 straight lines...very weak!

For the final 6th piece I triple knotted all the threads at both ends so the thread would stay tightened. I designed a checkerboard-like grid and wanted to alternate horizontal and vertical lines. I carried the threads across the blank squares, mostly so I wouldn't have endless threads to knot off! This small technical decision can actually have a tremendous influence on the final result.

I didn't stitch the outside borders. After tightening and tying off the stitches the piece looked like this:

And after dyeing, using about 30 drops of dye in 3 oz water, for an extended length of time(about 1-2 hours but not optimized), the result was this:

Mini "mokume" in the squares as expected, but not quite as planned for the rest! Two extra squares in the middle were resisted...but not unexpectedly given how scrunched the fabric was. If I had not carried the threads over the blank squares, this effect might not have been so pronounced. Also interesting was that this piece had been dyed with blue and a touch of black...but came out purple!! And the black dye settled into the folds...
Also if you look closely at the piece, you can see that the giant knots also resisted and added small dots of white to the design.

So that is week 1 for me. Come back each day to check out everyone else's shibori posts...and see you again next Saturday! Thanks Nienke for letting me be part of Stitched Shibori month.


  1. Hi Marsha, I love Colorhue dyes, but have never tried stitching on the silk. Your examples are wonderful. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Hello Marsha
    I love the possibilities that occurred to me when I viewed your grid. Thanks for your posting and great photos. Sheila

  3. Wonderful results and don't I just LOVE that hint about wetting the cloth before the final pull and knot!!

  4. Thanks for sharing your results. I'm working on similar stitching but on cotton of different weights. Will take particular note of your experience with open weave fabric! :)

  5. Great examples, thank you for sharing!


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